Coffee with Mimi: Four little trees made me think …

Published 12:07 pm Monday, January 23, 2017

By Mimi Becker

Contributing writer

I am sure we are being teased and lulled into a false sense of security by the temperature outside.  It is mid-January and we have yet to experience any dreadful weather.  It has rained and rained and rained.  But, that’s a good thing, right? 

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One day soon however, that precipitation is going to be snow sure as the sun rises.  Isn’t it?  But for now, we can think about spring and imagine.

My birthday was a couple weeks ago.  My son and his family have arranged for four little trees to be delivered to my house on or about Feb. 13.  How perfect.  Over the course of the 25 years in our house, we have lost about a dozen significant trees in our yard.  There was the awful June wind in the early 90s, and then the devastating ice storms.  Four little trees are a good start.

Gardening has always been a major part of my “to do” list.  We have a large yard for a town lot and our house is oriented awkwardly on the lot facing sideways to the street.  This leaves many spaces needing landscaping attention.  Through the years, I would plan all winter, buying magazines, envisioning flowering vistas out my back windows, a well-manicured front lawn,  and seek advice, all in preparation for a spring and summer of gardening progress. 

As soon as the weather would warm up, I was determined to prepare the vegetable garden plot, choose plants for a perennial bed and clean up all the unsightly corners creating lovely little spaces to sit, drink tea and read.

I didn’t stop at plants.  I hoarded rocks and bricks for a patio extension, stacking them at the ready for the perfect day to excavate and lay them in the planned pattern.  I designed an enlargement of the backyard pond with additional fountains.  I convinced the men cutting down a tree next door to slice the trunk into seat-height chunks for a proposed fire pit and gallery seating for croquet and corn hole games.

As I moved closer to retirement, I vowed to take on the regular tasks of mowing and trimming.  Since I was a teacher, theoretically I was off in the summers, so why not get in the groove of yard care early?   We purchased all the necessary equipment, a mower, trimmer, leaf blower and better rakes.

Well, one thing does not always lead to another.  Planning and dreaming are not the same as doing and finishing.

The patio bricks and rocks are still stacked as they have been for about four years.  The outline of the extension was dug and then the young man helping had to report for military duty.  What was I to say?

The kitchen garden, based on an English design carefully researched, wasn’t tilled as it rained incessantly, so it seemed, every weekend and evening all spring and into the summer.

The enlargement of the pond was completed and new fish were purchased, which apparently brought with them a condition causing horrible algae growth. This resulted in a summer spent fighting it with attempts at diagnosing and eventually losing the battle to create a sparkling, bubbling water feature.  All the new fish died.  The only survivors were the two stalwart little guys who had spent the previous winter hibernating in the pond and continue to happily swim about today.  Maybe it was their fault.   I had to drain the pond and start over.

So now it’s January, the weather is tantalizingly mild.  Yes!  Time to start yard-planning.  There are four little trees on the way.  This is the year.  I will be awarded the “Yard of the Month.” There will be a picture in the paper.  The neighbors will be so appreciative. 

I am retired.  I should have plenty time to execute all the projects on the list.

Who am I kidding?  Those English kitchen gardens take years to develop and mature.  Ponds always take work.  Patio extensions are not a weekend DIY project.  It always rains on the day set aside for raking this week.  When will I learn?

Actually, I have a pretty stupendous peony bed.   I have kept the front foundation bed completely alive, relatively weed-free and thriving since it was arranged four years ago.  I mow most of the time (see note about rainy days above) since I began doing my own maintenance three years ago.  My border plantings are expanding and filling in nicely since I started them two summers ago.  The fire pit and seating gallery are ready for summer bonfires since last year.

I have four little trees being delivered in about a month.  I think I will plant them and then choose one more project.  A long “to-do” master list may be creative and inspiring, but I think this year I will just finish the patio extension.